Re; ‘Freeganism Is Evil’ – A Pro-Freegan Story Analogy

Here’s some incredibly niche philosophy arguments encase you ever feel the need to defend rescuing animal products that have gone past the best before date like bread with whey in it from shops for free and eating it yourself or sharing them out:

Firstly it can be great animal rights advocacy in rare circumstances like so; by setting up a Food not Bombs stall in the town centre and putting up a vegan sign in front of a big pan of vegan stew and a freegan sign infront of rescued bread. The vegan sign can provoke lots of interesting conversations about the ethics of breeding and killing animals. While the freegan sign can get people talking about a further layer of if it is true that harming animals for their meat, milk and eggs was necessary to feed the population, how come so very much meat, milk and eggs ended up rotting in supermarket skips instead? Which can provoke further conversation about the evils of producing such an energy intensive product like meat to just become food waste, while people are starving around the world.

Secondly non-human animals we farm don’t experience a worse quality of life worrying about whether they’re going to be eaten by other humans after they’re dead, humans do as a species norm.

Thirdly there exists healthy human cultures in which humans being eaten by non-human animals after they’re dead is seen as a positive, for example in Tibet, having your energy transferred into that of a bird is seen as a beautiful thing or green burials where your body can more easily become nutrients for both animals and plants. So then, healthy human cultures in which non-human animals are eaten by humans is also likely possible.

And finally, even if it’ll be a better world when everyone is vegan and we’re all disgusted by animals products (in the same way as if no one ever felt pressured by sexist beauty standards to shave their legs again), that doesn’t mean that it’s not morally permissible to consume some of those animal products at the moment i.e. it’s not comparable to cannibalism where you’re causing worse quality of life in other humans by normalizing it or normalizing the standard that women should have their genitals mutilated as neither the choice to shave your legs or eat thrown out animal products necessitates violating anyone’s rights or causing harm to anyone.

Intro

Yo, so this is a response to Vegan Footsoldiers video entitled ‘Freeganism is Evil’. My understanding – extrapolating from his story analogy – was that he believes you can’t both be a great human rights advocate and not care about humans interests as a species norm during a humans life time, to then go against them by eating them. And that the same applies to animal rights advocates and animals. But basically I disagree, because animals aren’t worrying about events past their death, so they aren’t suffering a worse quality of life imagining maybe they’ll be eaten by humans after they’re dead.

He also wrote in the comments he uses Immanuel Kant’s indirect principle to justify calling freeganism immoral, so I’ll flash up on the screen my formal refutations of that now for anyone curious you can pause the video or come back to them later, 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. [At the bottom of this post]

But the point of this video is I’d just like to tell a story analogy back, because I think narratives as intuition pumps are useful.

So here we go…

The Story

Once upon a time the good people of London and of all Britain were horrified to hear that a girls genital mutilation ring was discovered in the capital city. A deeply abhorrent and unethical tradition from the land of their origin, the families and surgeons had forced children to have their clitoris’s chopped off. They tried to keep their terrible work secret and warned the children that they must never tell, and most of the children never did, and yet the story came out. One night the ten o’clock news reported that multiple children had been subjected to this horrible abuse.

The people of Great Britain were horrified, they shuddered at what was one of the most ethically repugnant operations continuing to exist in Great Britain. How could it be happening? Why were the children not saved? Was it still happening even now?

The people cried for justice, something must be done! Questions were asked in Parliament, what were the police doing to stop these heinous acts? Stirred into action by the loud clamour of the people, the police searched for information on where the genital mutilation was taking place.

Then suddenly, the surgeons, the elders and parents responsible who had been able to cause unquantifiable tragedy during its short existence thankfully all were arrested and charged by the police. Newspapers across the land carried pictures of their heads bowed in shame, names were named, details given. In the courtroom they all admitted guilt and were each sentenced to prison. Justice! Justice! The repulsed crowd of onlookers shouted as the perpetrators were escorted in handcuffs out of the courthouse and stuffed into the police vehicle.

Two human rights activists stood together gravely, feeling a sense of deep tragedy for the victims while shedding bittersweet tears of resolution knowing that the foul people responsible would be put behind bars where they belonged, where they would have the time to contemplate such heinous crimes.

Jane and Billy were their names. It was these two human rights activists who played the most important part in the story for they had taken it upon themselves to spy on the genital mutilation ring and alert the police.

They already knew what had been going on well before the media picked up on the story and having had little faith in the police to do something about it, thankfully Jane and Billy had become vigilantes to track down the perpetrators themselves Without the help of these activists it would have likely taken much longer with much more bloodshed until the perpetrators were finally brought to justice.

They had frantically run to the police station after having received word of the mutilation that would take place that day to alert the police and point out who the doctor and parents responsible were. The police had broken down the door to the secret location in the middle of the night. The parents had already years ago mutilated their two eldest children’s genitals and were in the process of mutilating the youngest two when the police stormed the building.

One of the children fortunately was unharmed but one wasn’t so lucky, the girl was experiencing massive blood loss and had gone into shock. She was rushed to the hospital accompanied by the human rights activists as they had been at the scene when the police made the raid.

At the hospital whilst the medical staff raced to save the injured child’s life the human rights activist waited distraught in the corridor just outside the operating theatre, Billy paced up and down. Furious at himself not having been able to bring the police to the location sooner. Jane sat with her head in her hands, if only they had been able to arrive just five minutes earlier, maybe even just one minute earlier. Never before had 60 seconds meant so much to either of them.

It wasn’t long before the surgeon walked glumly out of the operating theatre door and into the corridor where the activists waited now frozen, now unable to take a breath in anticipation of the news. Looking up from her chair Jane burst into a whale of tears even before those six heart-breaking words could escape from the lips of the medic, ‘we did all that we could’.

Billy threw his arms around Jane in an attempt to comfort her as she cried engulfed in sadness and regret for not having been able to have saved the girl from this terrible fate. They gathered their things, knowing there was a long night still ahead, the police would want statements. It would be many hours before they would be back home.

A week later, Billy and Jane, still reeling from their experience, were walking round the supermarket together when Jane got a text from their daughter Sam asking for a safety razor. She turned round to Billy to read out the text and they both looked at each other concerned.

Sam was 14 years old and had been a young advocate at school for girls not needing to shave their legs if they didn’t want to. For Sam, the point had always been that women should not alter their bodies to conform to cultural standards or gratify the male gaze. She’d often been teased at school but had always laughed it off. Had someone said something really mean to her for her to suddenly want to shave her legs now?

They discussed the issue some more, but decided they better get the razor as it was her decision and if she changed her mind again, she could always let the hair grow back. They could hardly fight so hard for girls to exercise their rights over a cultural norm like FGM and yet not trust their daughter’s judgement in the matter of shaving her legs.

When they got home they talked to their daughter, trying to find out if she was feeling pressured into shaving her legs, and worried that she was being influenced by advertisements or all the bullying over the years. They were relieved to find out that now it was summer she just wanted to try out shaving her legs to see what it felt like. Billy and Jane were glad to have talked it through and furnished her with her very own safety razor.

The next day was a Saturday and Billy and Jane were busy setting up a ‘Food Not Bombs’ stall in the town centre. They had worked hard all morning on a massive pan of vegan stew that could feed 500 people. Fragrant with cardamom and coconut oil, thickened with red lentils, it contained squashes and pulses, potatoes and vedge. Billy had rescued the crusty bread to dip in the stew from an overstuffed supermarket skip the night before. Jane noticed that it contained the tiniest amount of whey from cows milk, but because they were giving it away, she knew the corporations wouldn’t profit from their work.

They put up two signs on the table, ‘Vegan Stew’ and ‘Freegan Bread’. As well as tons of pamphlets and leaflets with helpful advice on living a low impact vegan or freegan lifestyle and the various campaign struggles in the city and internationally.

The vegan sign provoked lots of interesting conversations about the ethics of breeding and killing animals. While the freegan sign got people talking about a further layer. If it was true that harming animals for their meat, milk and eggs was necessary to feed the population, how come so very much meat, milk and eggs ended up rotting in supermarket skips instead? This provoked another conversation about the evils of producing such an energy intensive product like meat to just become food waste, while people are starving around the world.

So, when it came time to fold down the table and go home, a great day of advocating for human and animal legal rights, plus environmental protection had been had.

Driving home they got to talking about how years ago, Jane had used rescued cheese to help her stay strong in her decision to go vegan. Jane had got the idea from a documentary she’d watched which talked about a therapist who devised a technique in group therapy to help people quit cigarettes. On day one, they emptied bags full of cigarettes into the centre of the group circle, to show them the abundance, so that that stress about scarcity was dulled.

She had worried that she might have been weak willed enough to fail without the rescued cheese and convince herself that going vegan wasn’t for her. But she knew that probably that happens to a lot of people. If more people had access to animal products from a source that is doing no further harm to animals, it might help them in their transition to not buying it anymore. And that could only be a good thing.

Freeganism had had that same effect of re-aligning the value of junk food for her, getting rid of low-level addictions. When you see the mountains of packaged baked goods, croissants and doughnuts produced that day in the shop, stacked in a mountain all in front of you, you know you can get that sugar crash whenever you like, you stop seeing it as such a hot option.

Billy then remarked how interesting it is that buying cigarettes for that therapeutic technique is doing a little harm in the short term, buying the fags profits the tobacco industry. Yet the therapeutic technique serves a greater good long term.

And yet with freeganism not only is no harm being committed, it’s carbon negative because you’re eating food that would otherwise have been thrown out, so less food needs to be produced.

Then Jane said; I used to think it would be as simple as saying, “imagine if you grew up knowing that you were going to be killed for your meat!” Because of how compassion for our fellow human beings works, we couldn’t imagine causing them that fear. The harm would have this cumulative effect on the culture, our community bonds, and who we know we are. Like abhorring female genital mutilation.

But it’s not the same thing. Animals aren’t burdened by those questions, don’t know they’ll be killed for their meat, don’t live in fear of that end. But by buying animal products, we perpetuate the industry that profits from their killing, and contributes to the devastation of the environment.

Billy said, that’s the point isn’t it? In Tibet, having your energy transferred into that of a bird is seen as a beautiful thing, so funerals at the top of mountains and your remains left as a tasty snack for the vultures is not so unusual. He said; it would be a great thing to move away from graveyards with cold gravestones in rows. Imagine if more people chose to be buried at a memorial woodland site. A tree planted in remembrance of you, your remains feeding the tree.

Finally Jane said; Right, so culture can be good or bad, we have to look towards something more concrete like what brings us happy flourishing and go from there. Like, it probably will be a better world when everyone is vegan and we’re all disgusted by thrown out animal products. And it would be great if no one ever felt pressured by sexist beauty standards to shave their legs again!

But at the end of the day, it’s not like cannibalism, where you’d be causing worse quality of life in other humans by foretelling a gruesome ending. And the same goes for normalizing the standard that women should have their genitals mutilated. Both ideas are barbaric, and rightly rejected.

Neither the choice to shave your legs or eat thrown out animal products causes harm to anyone, so I don’t really see why people ought not do it. Even though I want that culture without any more domestic animals or carnism, I still just see a win in the political act of rescuing animals and wasted food, building relationships with people that can benefit from those calories or companionship, where no positive change would happen otherwise.

“Here, here” they both said while enjoying a little laugh. And laugh they did.

Formal Arguments

First here’s my formulation of Footsoldiers argument which is IMO unsound:

A1) Kant’s Indirect Principle Against Advocating For Freeganism

P1) If I accept Kant’s axioms then I accept the indirect principle established in the groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals

P2) If I accept the indirect principle established in the groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals then I would agree that treating non human animals without dignity would harm myself

P3) If I accept the indirect principle established in the groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals then I have a moral duty to not harm myself

P4) If I agree that treating non human animals without dignity would harm myself and that I have a moral duty to not harm myself then I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity

P5) If I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity then I should reject consuming animal products (as it is the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

P6) If I should reject consuming animal products then I shouldn’t promote freeganism (as to do so would constitute promoting self-harm)

P7) I accept Kant’s axioms

C) Therefore I should be against freeganism

Through consquentialism it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the ethical issue is breeding and killing of animals, cutting short their interests to experience wellbeing. And that if non-human animals aren’t experiencing worse quality of life worrying about whether they’re going to be eaten by other humans after they’re dead, then there’s no ethical issue to freeganism.

Through deontology however, you might think you should reject consuming all animal products on principle as you feel it is the antithesis of treating animals with dignity.

So the arguments I’d suggest you use on such a person is firstly you could use a simple comparison to argue the way the person is applying dignity is a category error, like I do in the story analogy by saying:

It probably will be a better world when everyone is vegan and we’re all disgusted by thrown out animal products. And it would be great if no one ever felt pressured by sexist beauty standards to shave their legs again!

But at the end of the day, it’s not like cannibalism, where you’d be causing worse quality of life in other humans by foretelling a gruesome ending. And the same goes for normalizing the standard that women should have their genitals mutilated. Both ideas are barbaric, and rightly rejected.

Neither the choice to shave your legs or eat thrown out animal products necessitates violating anyone’s rights, so I don’t really see why people ought not do it.

And in formal logic terms:

A2) Rejecting the utility of culturally specific disgust reactions

P1) Non-human animals don’t experience a worse quality of life worrying about whether they’re going to be eaten by other humans after they’re dead, humans do.

P2) IF there exists healthy human cultures in which humans being eaten by non-human animals after they’re dead is seen as a positive (for example in Tibet, having your energy transferred into that of a bird is seen as a beautiful thing or green burials where your body can more easily become nutrients for both animals and plants) THEN healthy human cultures in which non-human animals are eaten by humans is also likely possible

P3) There exists healthy human cultures in which humans being eaten by non-human animals after they’re dead is seen as a positive

P4) If non-human animals don’t experience a worse quality of life worrying about whether they’re going to be eaten by other humans after they’re dead, humans do AND healthy human cultures in which non-human animals are eaten by humans is likely possible THEN even if it’ll be a better world when everyone is vegan and we’re all disgusted by animals products (in the same way as if no one ever felt pressured by sexist beauty standards to shave their legs again), that doesn’t mean that it’s not morally permissible to consume some of those animal products at the moment (i.e. it’s not comparable to cannibalism where you’re causing worse quality of life in other humans by normalizing it or normalizing the standard that women should have their genitals mutilated as neither the choice to shave your legs or eat thrown out animal products necessitates violating anyone’s rights)

P5) IF (even if it’ll be a better world when everyone is vegan and we’re all disgusted by animals products, that doesn’t mean that it’s not morally permissible to consume some of those animal products at the moment) THEN (IF I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity THEN I should not reject consuming animal products [as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity])

P6) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity

C) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity, and I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

Or secondly without even challenging their gut disgust reaction to thinking it would be treating the animal without dignity you could try something close to a consequentialist argument:

A3) Refutation of P5 of A1 using Tom Regan’s worse-off principle

P1) If I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity then I should promote freeganism on rare occasions where it’s an effective advocacy tool at encouraging people to stop buying animal products because the principle that I should avoid very minor self-harm in the disgust it brings to mind when advocating shouldn’t override the principle that it’s immoral to pass up easy opportunities to encourage people to stop buying animal products (which leads to the breeding and killing of animals) because I wouldn’t want to live in a world in which everyone passed up on those opportunities, so I should act according to that maxim by which I can at the same time will that it should become a universal law

P2) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity

P3) P1 entails if I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity then I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

C) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity, and I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

Or thirdly you could you could try challenging the necessity of the disgust reaction:

A4) Kant’s Indirect Principle For Advocating For Freeganism

P1) If I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity THEN I should promote freeganism on rare occasions where it’s an effective advocacy tool at encouraging people to stop buying animal products because although killing an animal isn’t treating the animal with dignity, eating an animal to prevent waste is, because you’re eating food that would otherwise have been thrown out, so less food needs to be produced, causing less harm to the environment AND if it had gone to the landfill it might have gotten eaten by maggots which can survive on any food like rotting vegetables, but it would be much less dignity than you could show the animal by putting that energy to use in achieving happy flourishing yourself and setting an example for others.

P2) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity

P3) P1 entails if I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity then I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

C) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity, and I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

Or finally you could try nudging them away from deontology with a kind of virtue ethics argument a la W.D. Ross:

A5) Refutation of P5 of A1 using W.D.Ross’s principle of prima facie duties

P1) If I accept W.D.Ross’s theory of prima facie duties THEN I accept any felt obligation is a prima facie duty, though it can be overridden depending on the circumstances by another one, that doesn’t mean that the original obligation disappears, it simply means that it’s defeasible and it usually continues to operate in the background.

P2) If I accept any felt obligation is a prima facie duty, though it can be overridden depending on the circumstances by another one, that doesn’t mean that the original obligation disappears, it simply means that it’s defeasible and it usually continues to operate in the background THEN I accept when I have a felt obligation that talking positively about the consumption of animal products is disgusting and would be an act of self-harm to myself AND I learn about people using freeganism as an effective advocacy tool in turning people vegan who wouldn’t otherwise have considered it, such that I now feel a stronger felt obligation to do the same that the duty to do the latter is overriding, but I’m going to work extra hard to advocate for veganism such that I can know I’ve contributed to a future world in which no one needs to talk about the positive effects of consuming animal products, because the initial obligation still operates in the background even though it was overridden.

P3) I accept W.D.Ross’s theory of prima facie duties

P4) P2 entails if I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity then I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

P5) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity

C) I should live in a way which treats animals with dignity, and I should not reject consuming animal products (as it is not the antithesis of treating animals with dignity)

References

The video I’m responding to is called ‘Freeganism is Evil’ by Footsoldier:

The idea for the analogy came from this great video called Thoughts On Freeganism by Catherine Klein:

“I understand that shaving my legs and my armpits and everything is a sexist double standard, why are women expected to be completely hairless in order to be seen as attractive? It doesn’t make sense and I think it’s totally badass when women break this norm and go all natural. It does make me question my choices like I probably should be like fuck the patriarchy and stop shaving, just like I probably should be horrified by my leather boots and throw them out because one could argue that shaving your legs is an example of internalized oppression, but at the end of the day, neither of my choices here are causing direct harm to anyone, so I don’t really see changing my ways as a moral necessity.”

Freeganism article on the Philosophical Vegan Wiki:

Freeganism video catalogue

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Call out for a collective song writing tribute to Captain Hotknives

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Table of Contents

  • Concept Ideas
  • The Story
  • Lyrics
  • Further Reading

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Concept Ideas

A comedy song telling the story of Chris’s (Captain Hotknives) first descent into psychosis was sung one fateful night at The Secret Garden Party festival in a style similar to The Doors, but sadly it has been all but forgotten.

Do you fancy yourself a writer or comedian and have suggestions for rewriting the song or can share with someone who is? Or by 1 in a billion chance were you one of the people who heard it or know someone who did and can get them to remember?

Chris’s songs over the last 20 years or more have been a reminder to find the comic absurdity in many aspects of our society and the campaigns to change it for the better. Reminding us that in being able to laugh at ourselves, we can then feel freer to experiment and enjoy a culture with more complex forms of expression being understood.

He’s gone from risking his own skin walking into dodgy far-right pubs to sing songs making fun of racism, to writing songs making light of the head spinning speed in the 90s in which someone could go from leafleting against fox hunting to being asked to help liberate beagles from a laboratory. He’s poked fun at the history of land ownership and past along tales of drug smugglers robbing their van back from the RUC.

So if a talented songwriter could find a way to work into the lyrics what his future would hold after this fateful event, I think it could go a long way towards a fitting tribute.

As well I’ll produce a little pdf print downloadable zine of song lyrics with illustrations for the greatest hits album including this bonus fan tribute song.

Finally feel free to go away and produce something totally unique and contact me with what you’ve come up with or you can comment your lyrics suggestions directly on the google doc linked below so you can see what other people have contributed:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zmhumxvMIiAlBKOcOckqu5nXwDPECpsZAFKq5XyWzTY/edit

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The Story

Video – The Light Side Of Psychosis

We used t stay in neighbours house wen me mum was at work, n they customised bikes n trikes.. I used t see em Avin a cig but it was well different to me mums bensons or regals.. it were like they made their cigs from scratch wi three bits o paper.. n burnin lumps o stuff n crumbling

… n I used t feel sorry for em cos they must o been skint cos they all shared one cig?!

Was always dead hungry wen we went home

When I was about 24, I was having a bit of a bad do, these lads tried to kill me and my brother, blah, blah, blah.

I’d been awake for a few nights, I’d lost my house. And everything was going a bit shite, so I ate this big lump of hash thinking this’ll get me to bed, aha, silly cunt.

And then I had a seizure in my girlfriend’s bed, not knowing what a seizure was because it was the first one I’d ever had, I was that sleep deprived and I was very frightened as well, so I had loads of adrenaline in my head.

And in my tripping sort of state, I went downstairs naked, covered in piss.

And I’m saying to our James; Shamus, listen to me man.

And he’s like; what are you doing with no clothes on you cunt?

And I’m like; Shamus, listen. I’ve died.

And I was convinced that I’d died in this seizure. And what I’d been experiencing in the convulsions was my soul leaving my body, so I was actually totally convinced that I was dead because I was in the middle of a cannabis psychosis, not realising after eating a massive lump of hash. Silly bastard.

So my brother’s going; you haven’t died.

And my girlfriend and my mates are going; you haven’t fucking died mate. You’re naked, you’re being a bit annoying, but you’re certainly not dead.

And I was getting really annoyed, because I’m thinking why aren’t they listening to me, why are they denying the most spiritual experience I’ve ever had? I died up their in that fucking bed you cunts!

He said; yeah we could hear fucking something was going on, we thought you were having a wank or something.

And I was like; I died!

And they wouldn’t have it, and then because I got so irate with my poor brother, the poor bastard, him putting up with me, I fucking had another seizure.

But everybody saw me then having a fit, so they did what you’d imagine would be sensible, they got an ambulance.

So I’ve come round from the second fit, in the ambulance, still convinced that I’ve died.

So I’m thinking they’re wasting NHS resources, they could help somebody else.

So I’m shouting to the driver; mate, I’ve died, you’re wasting petrol.

Don’t take me to BRI, take me to Ecleshill cemetery where I used to huff the glue and I’ll be alright.

And I’ll be a ghosty and I can huff ghosty glue and it’ll all be fine.

And my poor brother was in the ambulance with me and I’m saying to him: James look, you’ll have to ring mum and tell her I’ve died.

And he was like trying to hold me still.

And it’s shameful to admit, but I kind of got a big fighty, a bit fighty with the ambulance guys.

Which you should never do, because fuck me they actually save lives man.

And I was more fighty with my brother, but we did fight a lot as brothers anyway.

So they ended up strapping me to this ambulance, fucking stretchy thing.

And I’m there in Bradford Royal Infirmary, I’m there in A&E, strapped to a stretcher and I’m shouting at all the pissheads going; will you show a bit of respect for the dead! I fucking died earlier you cunts! I fucking died I’ll have you know!

Then they put me onto a heart monitor, because they’re obviously thinking what is going on with this mad cunt?

And after a bit of calming down I had another fit, and the little things came off my chest didn’t they, so the machine went ooooooooooo. Not because I had died, but because they came off my chest.

But me, I saw that and I’m saying to the nurses; I fucking told you, I fucking told you cunts, I fucking died.

Why is no one listening to me today? I fucking died at tea time and you’re still fucking me about with this fucking heart monitor.

Can I not just get a taxi to go to the pub now I’m a ghosty?

And anyway as you might imagine I ended up in a mental hospital.

That was beautiful. What time does the medication trolley come round? About 8 o’clock? Usual then yeah?

Audience: Get administered to you by Jesus

Yeah, I was Jesus’s bodyguard on ward 4. That’s not even a lie.

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Lyrics

Captain Hotknives:

[Singback Chorus]

You’re not dead! I am dead!

You’re not dead! I am dead!

You don’t know what happens to you when you’re dead, you’re off your head!

Further Reading

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Why Ecocentrism Is Essential

If you neglect environmental protection you incur a burden on legal human rights and legal animal rights because humans and animals depend on having clean water, clean air and atmospheric stability that doesn’t lead to drastic climate change.

In order to even know where it is ethical to draw a line in the sand on where and what amount of territory can be taken up by human development, we need to look to where environmental processes can and cannot support sentient life and to what degree.

If you neglect legal animal rights, the environment which sustains humans and animals often deteriorates because in most cases it takes more land to grow plants to feed to animals to eat those animals than eating the plants directly, so you have less land acting as a carbon sink, less land for wild animals to be able to express all their capabilities in and less land for human habitation.

And finally, if you neglect legal human rights, obviously humans suffer, but also animals to the extent that we could ideally be good caretakers, like rescuing and releasing wildlife who were injured. Plus how a chaotic inefficient human society leads to worse environmental damage.

Recommended reading:

Recommended listening/watching on the 3 spheres; geochemistry & non-sentient biology, sentient animals & sapient meaning creation:

Ethics of Direct Action Debate & Research

TL;DW I advocate reasons for viewing far-left direct action positively, while my liberal opponent argues for a narrower set of justifications. Hopefully people find the dialogue around ethical foundations and campaign case studies useful.

I had this good debate a few days ago in the Arthuria server on the proposition; It has been and will likely continue to be for some time, in some cases both ethically justified and good political advocacy to use direct action tactics ranging from civil disobedience up to economic sabotage and fighting evil actors today.

Meaning in terms of campaigning against state, corporate and social harms, I think people should have available to them tactics ranging from purposeful; civil disobedience, to graffiti & culture jamming, to hacking, to sabotage & fighting. But, stopping short of political killing today under representative systems.

An example of fighting evil actors would be sometimes fighting people who are displaying character vices and making them feel afraid as being the best solution, like repeat offending rapists and paedophiles. And an example of economic sabotage would be both making a statement and making it more costly for a system or person to continue doing that action, like sabotaging a draft office, disrupting the governments ability to send people to Vietnam.

Here’s my longer essay on the subject: On The Far-Left, Effective Activism & Violence

And finally, in preperation for the debate I started cataloging the history of revolutionairy groups and campaigns to look for interesting case studies which you can find here: Left-Libertarian History Case Studies

On The Far-Left, Effective Activism & Violence

Introduction to what it means to be on the far-left

So first off, as socialists & anarchists, we know we are far outside the Overton window. We know even if left-wing policy positions are more popular than right-wing, most people are still going to be biased to what they’ve grown up with and what’s familiar to them.

But, we also know we can shift the Overton window from the radical fringe: [1]

The most important thing about the Overton window, however, is that it can be shifted to the left or the right, with the once merely “acceptable” becoming “popular” or even imminent policy, and formerly “unthinkable” positions becoming the open position of a partisan base. The challenge for activists and advocates is to move the window in the direction of their preferred outcomes, so their desired outcome moves closer and closer to “common sense.”

There are two ways to do this: the long, hard way and the short, easy way. The long, hard way is to continue making your actual case persistently and persuasively until your position becomes more politically mainstream, whether it be due to the strength of your rhetoric or a long-term shift in societal values. By contrast, the short, easy way is to amplify and echo the voices of those who take a position a few notches more radical than what you really want.

For example, if what you actually want is a public health care option in the United States, coordinate with and promote those pushing for single-payer, universal health care. If the single-payer approach constitutes the “acceptable left” flank of the discourse, then the public option looks, by comparison, like the conservative option it was once considered back when it was first proposed by Orrin Hatch in 1994.

This is Negotiating 101.

So our hope is that our ideals and passion can be admired by some, like risking prison to sabotage the draft for Vietnam, so some peoples sons aren’t conscripted into fighting an evil war. [2] Then any moderate left policies might look reasonable in comparison which makes them the tried and tested policies of the future.

We should also openly acknowledge that the ideal future we would like to see is empirically extremely unlikely to come about in our own lifetimes in the west, as there are still so many hills to climb first in pressuring workplaces over to a more co-operative flattened hierarchy of workplace democracy.

To quickly summarise, the direction the far-left would like to head in, is going from; a two party system, to… a multi-party coalition through preferential voting, to… some local government positions being elected by sortition, to… the majority of society being so content with worker-co-ops and syndicalist unions that we transition from representative democracy to direct democracy. So, a chamber of ministers to federated spokes councils.

Now I might be the minority in the far-left on this, but I would want people to have the option of going back a step if people aren’t ready for that level of direct democracy, where the choice is disorganization and suffering or slightly less suffering under a repressive system of governance again. You could relate this to the position Rosa Luxemburg was in in lending support and hoping some good would come of the Spartacist uprising, whilst also wishing they could have been convinced to hold off until they were more prepared.

This is why it’s so important to build the governance model slowly enough to match expertise, so as not to falter with people pushing for ideals before having adequately put them to the test. So as not to cause a whiplash effect, where people desire a reactionary politics of conformity, under more rigid hierarchy of just the few.

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As anarchists & socialists who desire a more directly democratic society, what tactics should we use if we want to be effective at moving society in that direction?

Electoral politics – We need to get really well educated on how even the baby step policies toward the left would be an improvement on where we are now, we need to learn the internal politicking of government and get good at having friendly arguments with comedy to appeal to friends and acquaintances basic intuitions.

The goal being that we can talk the latest news and (1) Win over conservatives to obvious empirically better policies on the left, and (2) Win over liberals when centre-left parties are in power to feel dismayed at the slow pace of change, and so acknowlege how much better it would be if there was a market socialist in the position willing to rally people to demonstrate and strike to push through bills.

Mutual aid – We should put the time into helping our neighbours and volunteering, for example on a food not bombs stall, to get people to see the positive benefits of a communalist caring society.

Theory – We should be educating ourselves and helping others know what work and rent union to join, what to keep a record of at work, how to defend yourself from rapists and fascists, how to crack a squat and how to write a press release, etc.

Campaigning – We should look for the easiest squeeze points to rack up small wins, like the picketing of a cafe to reclaim lost wages, so that word spreads and it creates a domino effect.

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What tactics should we or shouldn’t we generally avoid in our political campaigns?

Civility as an end in itself

They’re not lies, they’re “falsehoods”; it’s not racism, it’s “racially charged comments”; it’s not torture, it’s “enhanced interrogation.” For years, U.S. media has prioritized, above all else, norms and civility.

Mean words or questioning motives are signs of declining civility and the subject of much lament from our media class. However, op-eds explicitly advocating war, invasion, sanctions, sabotage, bombing and occupation or cutting vital programs and lifelines for the poor are just the cost of doing business. What’s rhetorically out of bounds – and what isn’t – is far more a product of power than any objective sense of “civility” or “decency.”

Where did these so-called norms come from, who do they benefit, and why is their maintenance–-even in the face of overt white nationalism––still the highest priority for many liberals and centrists in U.S. media? [3]

This is so important to challenge, and yet incredibly nuanced. So, it is obviously a great success that the rate at which people would go around hurling racist insults looks to have dropped in favour of more political correctness.

It is also true that in pursuit of political correctness and an ethic of care, we can look for simplistic niceness, to the detriment of being able to identify systems of oppression.  We need to be able to refuse the emotional labor of treating our bosses as friends when we have no desire to be friends with them. [4]

Similarly in our everyday interactions, we need to encourage our friends to accept us for who we are or not to accept us at all, so as to create deeper connections which builds stronger communities: [5]

It can be annoying or hurtful when others presume they know everything about you. But rather than assert their wrongness and make them defensive, you can acknowledge it as a common human failing and find creative ways to hold a mirror up to what life experiences they’ve had that lead them to jump to those conclusions.

One way is a kind of playful authenticity, telling a lie about a lie, to get back closer to the truth. So don’t outright challenge the idea, but don’t live up to it either, in fact live down to it. Playfully undermine the idea by failing to live up to the glamour of what it would mean to be that person, then find a way of revealing that it was a misunderstanding all along, so they needn’t worry about it applying to you.

Media Chasing We shouldn’t chose our actions for the primary purpose of provoking conversations because it is insincere to ones own desires to materially affect change and it’s recognised as such by those who hear about it.

Transparency – We should be transparent with our supporters in all we hope to achieve and how successful we are being at achieving that task, so as not to attract funds for labor we haven’t and aren’t likely to be able to do.

Civil Disobedience – Whether it be breaking the law without causing any damage or economic sabotage and political violence which we’ll talk about later, anarchists hope to chose the right actions to provoke conversations and materially challenge unethical industries and actors, so as to push electoral politics towards direct democracy and eventually consolidate our gains in a revolution.

Fascists will also use tactics from civil disobedience to political violence, and tend toward violence against people for people holding ideas as the things they hate, rather than the lefts systemic critique of material conditions. All in the hopes of pushing society towards a more authoritarian constitutional republic, before seizing power in a palace coup and attempting to rule as a sequence of dictators for life.

It is up to the left to try and counter this violence by doxxing, making their rallies miserable, etc. And it is up to everyone to decide which government to vote in, to enact what degree of punishment to bring down on people breaking the law on either side.

Any direction the society goes in for either not controlling or bowing to which protesters demands is still the moral culpability of the government and those who participated in the party political process.

There simply is an obvious legal and moral difference between for example victimless civil disobedience on the left aimed at all people being treated equally in society like collecting salt from the sea or staying seated on the bus, to the type of violence you see on the right, like Israeli settlers throwing people off their land with arson attacks, stealing another country’s resources against international law.

But again, it is true that to whatever degree anarchists chose bad targets optically, we do to some degree bring the slow pace of change on ourselves by handing the right an advocacy win.

Graffiti & Culture JammingWhether it be an artistic masterpiece that no one asked for or altering a billboard to say something funny and political, instead of the advert that was there before pressuring you to consume more and more, most people can be won over by this as a good form of advocacy. Just don’t practice tagging your name a million times over every building in town.

Hacking – Obviously most people agree whistle-blowing war crimes is a yay. Selectively releasing documents to help conservatives win elections however, is a nay.

Sabotage – We should chose targets which have caused people the most amount of misery, for which people can sympathise most, like the sabotaging of draft cards I wrote about at the beginning. So causing economic damage to affect material conditions and make a statement.

We also need to carefully consider the difference between property which is personal, luxury, private, government owned and co-operatively worker owned.

So, it could be seen as ethical to chose material targets of evil actors in order to cause economic damage and make a statement, so long as in the case of personal property, the item has no sentimental value and can be replaced because the person is wealthy. Or is a luxury item that was paid for through the exploitation of others labor. Or is private property, meaning the means of production which should be owned collectively anyway.

It’s an expression of wanting to find an outlet for legitimate anger against that which causes us suffering. For example, if taking the risk to slash slaughterhouse trucks’ tires in the dead of night is how you develop stronger bonds with a group of people and gain the confidence to do amazing things like travel the world and learn from other liberation struggles.

Fighting – First off, I think propaganda by the deed, physically hurting people for the purpose of making a political statement is evil, as it runs counter to our philosophy on the left that material conditions create the person and so we should make every peaceful effort to rehabilitate people.

However, to the extent that some current institutions fail to rehabilitate people and the process of seeking justice through these institutions can cause more trauma, then personal violence to get to resolve feelings of helplessness in the face of evil acts can be an ethical act.

For example survivor-led vigilantism: [4]

I wanted revenge. I wanted to make him feel as out of control, scared and vulnerable as he had made me feel. There is no safety really after a sexual assault, but there can be consequences.” -Angustia Celeste, “Safety is an Illusion: Reflections on Accountability”

Two situations in which prominent anarchist men were confronted and attacked by groups of women in New York and Santa Cruz made waves in anarchist circles in 2010. The debates that unfolded across our scenes in response to the actions revealed a widespread sense of frustration with existing methods of addressing sexual assault in anarchist scenes. Physical confrontation isn’t a new strategy; it was one of the ways survivors responded to their abusers before community accountability discourse became widespread in anarchist circles. As accountability strategies developed, many rejected physical confrontation because it hadn’t worked to stop rape or keep people safe. The trend of survivor-led vigilantism accompanied by communiqués critiquing accountability process models reflects the powerlessness and desperation felt by survivors, who are searching for alternatives in the face of the futility of the other available options.

However, survivor-led vigilantism can be a valid response to sexual assault regardless of the existence of alternatives. One doesn’t need to feel powerless or sense the futility of other options to take decisive physical action against one’s abuser. This approach offers several advantages. For one, in stark contrast to many accountability processes, it sets realistic goals and succeeds at them. It can feel more empowering and fulfilling than a long, frequently triggering, overly abstract process. Women can use confrontations to build collective power towards other concerted anti-patriarchal action. Physical confrontation sends an unambiguous message that sexual assault is unacceptable. If sexual violence imprints patriarchy on the bodies of women, taking revenge embodies female resistance.

Other examples we can think of are personally desiring to fight fascists in the street to block them from marching through immigrant communities. To pushing your way through huntsman to save a fox from getting mauled to death by dogs.

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Political killing

I’ll work through hypotheticals from circumstances relevant to the past, present and future, then talk through the ethics of each.

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Past possibilities

Most people agree anyone who took it upon themselves to assassinate Hitler a day before the break out of WW2 would be seen as committing an ethical act, no matter who follows, because throwing a wrench into the cult of personality spell built around Hitler would be a significant set back for the fascist state’s grip over the people. And given all the evidence pointing to the inevitability of war, such an act could easily be seen as a necessary pre-emptive act.

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Present possibilities

Most can sympathise with quick revolutions against dictatorships where the result is a freer society, like the Kurdish uprising in Northern Syria which took power from a regime who had rolled tanks on demonstrators and outlawed teaching of their native language.

But, even there, there are key foundations you need to work from, like the probability you won’t just give an excuse for the oppressor committing even worse horrors as was the case with the Rohingya militants who ambushed a police checkpoint, resulting in army & citizen campaign to burn down many villages, plus murder and rape those that couldn’t get away.

As well as a responsibility to put down arms after winning political freedoms and a majority are in favour of diplomacy through electoral politics, like in Northern Ireland today.

Under representative parliamentary systems, the sentiment of most is that even if it could be argued that a war of terror against the ruling class was the easiest route to produce a better society, that it would still be ethically wrong to be the person who takes another’s life just because it’s the easiest way. Since regardless of manufactured consent or anything else you still could have worked to build a coalition to overcome those obstacles and change the system slowly from within.

And I agree, it would be an act of self-harm to treat life with such disregard when you could have been that same deluded person shrouded in the justificatory trappings of society treating your behaviour normally. I don’t think the way we win today is treating a cold bureaucratic system with equally cold disregard in whose life we had the resources to be able to intimidate this week. Time on earth is the greatest gift people have, to make mistakes and learn from them.

So then, an easy statement to make on life under representative parliamentary systems is; outside of absurdly unrealistic hypotheticals, I could never condone purposefully killing others when campaigning against such monoliths as state and corporate repression today.

Breaking that down though; what do I mean by an unrealistic hypothetical? For example the philosophical thought experiment called the trolley problem, where you have a runaway trolley hurtling towards 5 people tied to a track, and you can pull a leaver so the train changes tracks and only kills 1 person tied to a track. Or you can change it to 7 billion to 1 even. Or 7 billion of your average citizens vs. 1 million unethical politicians, police and bosses, to make it political.

Now what do I mean by purposeful, well we can think of for example the most extreme cases of post-partum psychosis which has mothers killing their babies. But more nuanced than that, the rape victim who gets worn down by their abuser for years until they have a psychological break and kill.

That does still leave a lot of lee way for people knowingly taking risks with others lives, not intending to kill, but who are reckless in their actions, such as with some forms of economic sabotage. And I agree such a reckless act would bring up feelings of revulsion for all kinds of reasons like questioning whether the person was really doing it to help people or for their own ego-aggrandizement. All that can be hoped is a person makes a careful accounting of their ability for human error and weighs it against the outcomes of doing nothing.

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Future possibilities

We can hypothesise the unrealistic case of 99% of society desiring a referendum on a shift from parliamentary representative system to a federated spokes council system and the MPs dragging their feet, the same way both parties gerrymander the boundaries to make it easier to win despite it being the one issue most everyone agrees is bad, and people needing to storm the halls of power to force a vote to happen.

More likely though, an opportunity for revolution might arise from such a confluence of events as climate refugees and worker gains forcing the state and corporations into trying to crack down on freedoms in order to preserve their power and enough people resisting that move, who are then able take power and usher in radical policy change, with either the army deciding to stand down or splitting into factions.

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References

1. Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution – Use your radical fringe to shift the Overton window P. 215.

2. The Camden 28 – The Camden 28 were a group of Catholic left anti-Vietnam War activists who in 1971 planned and executed a raid on a Camden, New Jersey draft board. The raid resulted in a high-profile criminal trial of the activists that was seen by many as a referendum on the Vietnam War and as an example of jury nullification.

3. Citations Needed Podcast – Civility Politics

4. Slavoj Žižek: Political Correctness is a More Dangerous Form of Totalitarianism | Big Think

5. A Love Letter To Failing Upward

6. Accounting for OurselvesBreaking the Impasse Around Assault and Abuse in Anarchist Scenes.

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A Love Letter To Failing Upward

Failing upward is simply the concept of failing by mainstream standards and yet achieving more fulfilling outcomes in the long run. Often this is connected to a feeling of unlocking opportunities you didn’t even know existed.

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PowerFailing to take every opportunity to lead from the front

Due to the unfair distribution of power in society in the hands of very few, the good any one person can strive to achieve is immense, because one can imagine wielding the kind of power those at the top currently have to do good. But this power is unnatainable to many.

So, like how a figure like Bernie Sanders could have harnessed the position of presidency to do lots of good, how he did educate the masses on the positives of socialised government institutions and, if he’d gotten into power, mobilise a grassroots movement to demonstrate and strike to push through bills.

But, most importantly power can be a mirage. It’s the carrot dangled in front just beyond our reach. We need to create opportunities for ourselves, to achieve great acts of good on our own, like the personal heroism of people flying to Syria to fight Islamic Fascism or organising edible gardens in low-income neighbourhoods.

As well, even though we may cherish those opportunites to do great deeds today, counter-intuitively, the goal should be to move to a world where grand feats of good deeds aren’t necessary or possible. So that more people get a chance to strive to do good.

So a move to devolve government power to a multi-party system through preferential voting, to… Some local government positions being elected by sortition, to… The majority of society being so content with worker-co-ops and syndicalist unions that we transition from representative democracy to direct democracy. So, a chamber of ministers to federated spokes councils.

We all know the experience of living under a conservative culture that accepts bigoted assumptions.  And we all know of certain unproductive actions which some counter-cultures have dogmatically valorized as the best form of resistance.  Both cultures incuclate their members with a ‘willing epistemology of ignorance.’  That is, a conspiracy to fail to view the world as it is, in exchange for the benefits being a member of that cultural group.

In response, we can simply work hard to fail to be swayed by the fear of what embracing radical compassion will turn you into.  Therefore, we must avoid the pitfalls of an illusory politics of resistance which wears its activists out faster than it inspires lasting change.

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Time – Failing to rush to achieve a bunch of outcomes without fully considering the value.

With the ever expanding knowledge each new generation is able to harness, the hard material outcomes of our goals in life will always be out performed better or faster than before.

So, while some people fret about failing against others, which makes them feel their life is not worth living, you, by failing to set strict goals for yourself and instead giving a leg up to those around you, can just observe everyone acting around you, contemplate your time and place in history and experience a peace of mind knowing you’re part of the fabric of everything.

We were nothing before we were born and we’ll be nothing again after we’re dead. The zoomed out size of the universe and length of time we aren’t around for overwhelms the blip of time we are here. This not-self follows us like a shadow throughout our life, like a chalk outline on the pavement, with every less able iteration of ourselves in between, refracted along a scale and merging back into the universe with other people’s similar layers.

A philosophical denial is just a view, a theory… it does not get one actually to examine all/ the things that one really does identify with… as ‘self’ or ‘I’, / This examination, in a calm meditative context, is what the not-self teaching aims at. It is not so much a thing to be thought about as to be done.

Finally allow ideas to percolate to the surface, don’t rush to nail down what an experience meant to you for time in perpetuity.

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Authenticity – Failing to modify your behaviour to be more comprehensible

It can be annoying or hurtful for others to presume they know everything about you, but rather than assert their wrongness and make them defensive, you can acknowledge it as a common human failing and find nice creative ways to hold a mirror up to what life experiences they’ve had that lead them to jump to that conclusion.

One way is a kind of playful authenticity, telling a lie about a lie, to get back closer to the truth. So don’t outright challenge the idea, but don’t live up to it either, in fact live down to it. Playfully undermine the idea by failing to live up to the glamour of what it would mean to be that person, then find a way of revealing that it was a misunderstanding all along, so they needn’t worry about it applying to you.

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The Middle Way – Failing to achieve short term gratification

Take satisfaction in starting a project with the tools at your disposal in which you have no idea whether it’ll ever be valuable to others, just that you learnt something new and that you really enjoyed the process.

There’s a quote I really like from the Tao Te Ching which explains how we can harness our higher inner character through acting with a conscious awareness about the way the universe works:

The way of heaven is like the bending of a bow.
The high is lowered, and the low is raised.
If the string is too long, it is shortened;
If there is not enough, it is made longer.

The way of heaven is to take from those who have too much
and give to those who do not have enough.
Man’s way is different.
He takes from those who do not have enough
to give to those who already have too much.

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Knowledge – Failing to keep track of every piece of information

It’s great to live with people who are observant of clues as to your mindset and can offer suggestions to help you or give you the room to learn from your own mistakes where the consequences aren’t dramatic.

It’s less useful to try and acquire every piece of gossip about a person and come into interactions with funny presumptions about who they are and why they act the way they do.

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Meaning – Failing to live up to expectations

Through having an accurate accounting of some of the worst possible outcomes at any moment and having a healthy way of coming to terms with that, we can truly decide if the road we want to be on us is as much ‘our choice’ as anything can be.

Compassionate comedy for the wholesomeness of peoples mistakes is one really great way of feeling comfortable in your own skin. In being able to laugh at ourselves, we can feel freer to experiment and enjoy a culture with more complex forms of expression being understood.

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Vulnerability – Failing to avoid pain

Love is the feeling that you almost had no other choice than pursuing the road you’re on. It’s both a scary feeling for opening yourself up to pain and a wonderful feeling for realising a passionate interest you may not have even been aware you had. Embrace it.

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The Great British Reuse Map

Are you unsure what the easiest option is to find or donate reused items? Well now there’s a map and article to explain all your options 🙂

Click here for the map

Index:

  • Food Banks, Real Junk Food Projects & Food Not Bombs Events
  • Reuse Centres
  • Free Item Gifting Organisations
  • Free Item Gifting Facebook Groups
  • Repair Cafes
  • How you can help build up reuse groups
  • Similar Resources

Food Banks, Real Junk Food Projects & Food Not Bombs Events

If you know of large quantities of food you or someone else can’t use that’s about to go past it’s best before date, consider taking it down to your local Food Bank, Real Junk Food Project or Food Not Bombs event, so that it can be parcled out or cooked up and served out in decilious ways for free, cheap or on a pay as you feel basis.

Reuse Centres

Ideally every town would have one reuse warehouse where every item was meticulously organized and easy to browse through.  Unfortunately charity shops often throw out as much as they take in for not having the room to display it all.  So, if you’re donating items, in most cases and for the time being, using free item gifting websites is still your best bet at finding the person who was looking for just that item and making sure your item isn’t going to waste.

Free Item Gifting Organisations

Freegle and Freecycle are two easy websites to use where you can make item offer or wanted posts.  Some benefits to the website are you can sort posts by just offers or just wanted posts.  Posts have titles so you can quickly see what item the person is offering/requesting and how far away they are.  Plus moderators can see logs of user engagement so they can discourage people who only collect to sell on.

As well there’s Trashnothing.com where you can search for posts within a set distance from where you live, though you do still have to join the Freegle or Freecycle group you want to post in or in order to respond to posts.

Free Item Gifting Facebook Groups

Same idea as above, only often less rules.  Can be good for villages who all know each other anyway, so don’t need a moderator checking every post.

Repair Cafes

“Repair Cafés are free meeting places and they’re all about repairing things (together). In the place where a Repair Café is located, you’ll find tools and materials to help you make any repairs you need. On clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances, toys, et cetera. You’ll also find expert volunteers, with repair skills in all kinds of fields.

Visitors bring their broken items from home. Together with the specialists they start making their repairs in the Repair Café. It’s an ongoing learning process. If you have nothing to repair, you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. Or you can lend a hand with someone else’s repair job. You can also get inspired at the reading table – by leafing through books on repairs and DIY.

There are over 1.500 Repair Cafés worldwide. Visit one in your area or start one yourself! See also the house rules we use at the Repair Café.”

Free or cheap item UK search engines

How you can help build up reuse groups

Hopefully this map and article will serve as a quick resource for locating just the right centre or platform you want to use.  Maybe give it a share so others can benefit too.

As well you can put up a poster on a community noticeboard letting people know about free item gifting websites. Or you can even help out your local food not bombs group by designing a cool looking poster for them, advertising the time and day they will be serving food.

Finally you can volunteer on the ground or as an online moderator.  And maybe create a pinned post letting people know all the reuse options in their area.

Similar Resources

Mutual advertising opportunities between Freegle & free item Facebook groups

I made a crossover map of Freegle groups and free item Facebook groups just out of curiosity:

There are 454 FB groups I could find with copious town and area searches, so the true number is probably not much higher at around 500. Compared to Freegle’s 434.

Here’s a look at their membership figures:

There are 5 Facebook groups overlapping with my local Freegle group area alone and they were nice enough to let me advertise my Freegle group, so thought others might be curious to see and give it a try.

I created a pinned post on my Facebook page & group explaining all the platform options people have for viewing and sharing free items with the long term goal of hoping the free item groups do the same, then made a post to the various groups saying more or less the same thing.

The idea being with having more platforms to chose from, people will be more invested in the platform they like the most and encourage others to use it also, helping those in poverty, reusing products to create less of a demand on people and the environment, plus fostering a sharing economy.

The pinned post

Other Platforms

Learn about other ways to reuse items with The Great British Reuse Map.

This website keeps logs of user engagement, so we can discourage people who only collect to sell on, as well so we can edit posts for clarity. But, there’s also Trashnothing.com where you can search for posts within a set distance from where you live, though you do still have to join the freegle group you want to post in or in order to respond to posts.

Plus here are a few free item facebook groups within and overlapping with Denbighshire:

The Advert

Hey all, just dropping by to say I recently started the website Denbighshire Freegle, we have a Facebook group which if you want to post wanted or offer posts to you’d more than welcome.

Some benefits of the website version are you can sort posts by just offers or just wanted posts. Posts have titles so you can quickly see what item the person is offering/requesting and how far away they are. And moderators can see logs of user engagement so we can discourage people who only collect to sell on.

Finally there’s also Trashnothing.com where you can search for posts within a set distance from where you live, though you do still have to join the Freegle group you want to post in or in order to respond to posts.

All the best.

The suggested mutual pinned post

Other Platforms

Learn about other ways to reuse items with The Great British Reuse Map.

Freegle keeps logs of user engagement, so that mods can discourage people who only collect to sell on, as well so mods can edit posts for clarity. But, there’s also Trashnothing.com where you can search for posts within a set distance from where you live, though you do still have to join the freegle group you want to post in or in order to respond to posts.

Plus here are a few other free item facebook groups within and overlapping with Denbighshire:

The maps

My Virtue-Existentialist Ethics

Major Influences

In After Virtue, MacIntyre tries to explain another element of what is missing in modern life through his use of the concept of a practice. He illustrates this with the example of a person wishing to teach a disinterested child how to play chess.

The teaching process may begin with the teacher offering the child candy to play and enough additional candy if the child wins to motivate the child to play. It might be assumed that this is sufficient to motivate the child to learn to play chess well, but as MacIntyre notes, it is sufficient only to motivate the child to learn to win – which may mean cheating if the opportunity arises. However, over time, the child may come to appreciate the unique combination of skills and abilities that chess calls on, and may learn to enjoy exercising and developing those skills and abilities. At this point, the child will be interested in learning to play chess well for its own sake. Cheating to win will, from this point on, be a form of losing, not winning, because the child will be denying themselves the true rewards of chess playing, which are internal to the game. The child will also, it should be noted, enjoy playing chess; there is pleasure associated with developing one’s skills and abilities that cannot come if one cheats in order to win.

MacIntyre concludes that there are two kinds of goods attached to the practice of chess-playing and to practices in general. One kind, external goods, are goods attached to the practice “by the accidents of social circumstance” – in his example, the candy given to the child, but in the real world typically money, power, and fame (After Virtue 188). These can be achieved in any number of ways. Internal goods are the goods that can only be achieved by participating in the practice itself. If you want the benefits to be gained by playing chess, you will have to play chess. And in pursuing them while playing chess, you gain other goods as well – you will get an education in the virtues. The two kinds of goods differ as well in that external goods end up as someone’s property, and the more one person has of any of them the less there is for anyone else (money, power, and fame are often of this nature). Internal goods are competed for as well, “but it is characteristic of them that their achievement is a good for the whole community who participate in the practice” (After Virtue 190-191). A well played chess game benefits both the winner and loser, and the community as a whole can learn from the play of the game and develop their own skills and talents by learning from it.

MacIntyre believes that politics should be a practice with internal goods, but as it is now it only leads to external goods. Some win, others lose; there is no good achieved that is good for the whole community; cheating and exploitation are frequent, and this damages the community as a whole.

Political Philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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One alternative is a prefigurative or practical anarchism, based on a social account of the virtues (based on a revision of MacIntyre’s virtue theory). This identifies goods as being inherent to social practices, which have their own rules, which are negotiable and alter over time. It stresses the immanent values of particular practices rather than on the externally decided (consequentialist) values that will accrue.

Thus, those tactics which are consistent with anarchism are those that are rewarding in their own terms rather than on the basis of external benefits alone. The different approaches to political-social organisation provide an illustration, in which Leninism exemplifies the instrumental approach, whilst a case from contemporary anarchism provides a contrast. Leninism concentrates on the external goods of the disciplined party, its success is primarily judged on its efficiency in reaching the desired goal of revolution. However, a different non-consequentialist approach to political organisation is to view political structures as the manifestation of internal goods, such as enhancing wisdom and the embodiment of social relationships that disperse social power. Standards are generated by, and help to form, anti-hierarchical social practices. For instance the norms required for secretly subverting corporate advertising or state propaganda are not identical to those required to maintain an inclusive, multi-functional social centre. Whilst different, the norms of both are open, to those entering these practices, they are open to critical dialogue and can alter over time.

Each anarchist practice produces their own standards, which overlap with others. The norms by which a successful social centre is run, will be different to, but bear some similarities with an inclusive, participatory website or periodical. Thus the standards for the goods, the types of social relationship that constitute (and are constituted by) non- or anti-hierarchical practice are observable and assessable within a domain – and between adjacent domains. So that the relatively stable, and common, norms of bravery (opposing dominating power), solidarity (reciprocal assistance between those in a subjugated position) and wisdom (coming to understand the structures of oppression and the means by which ‘other values’ can be created) are identifiable within anarchist practices, but are not necessarily universal. Similar practices involving subtly different actors will generate distinctive other goods (or bads).

Like the Stirnerite subject, there is no universal agent of change, but one in constant flux, resisting, challenging or fleeing the changing dominating powers within a given context. Within these radical practices, it produces its own immanent values. Because social practices are not distinct but overlap there are possibilities for links of solidarity across the different domains between different agents, although there is no universal agent who participates in all practices. A narrative of anti-hierarchical liberation, might provide a link between different practices, and provide routes for new social practices (and new agents to develop). The contestation of hierarchy, however, does not represent a new universal value. There are contexts in which goods are immanently developed but a challenge to structures that maintain inequalities of power is not generated – for instance, children playing in a sandbox. Thus, the rejection of hierarchy is not a universal guide to action, though, given the persistence of economic structures and institutions that enforce and legitimise these inequalities of power, it is highly likely that the contestation of hierarchy will remain a core anarchist value.

 – Anarchism; Ethics & Meta-Ethics by Benjamin Franks

Purpose & Meaning

We are born with biological drives and grow up being taught environmental drives we have to grapple with and make sense of.

All attachment or grasping necessarily entails risk of suffering, sometimes very low level suffering mixed in with greater happiness, which is necessary for meaning, but potentially distressing suffering none the less. 

We can’t quantify for the individual what level of suffering it is right that they owe themselves to muddle through to achieve some level of happiness later on.

We can only say if a persons reason for ending one’s own life, is to desire to make a meaningful decision, in the face of ‘unfair’ meaninglessness, the sum of one’s existence only becomes more absurd. So, actual suicide or philosophical suicide – in the form of on some level choosing to be piously ignorant to what life entails – being viewed as meaningful, is simply an attempt to deny that meaninglessness or no one stable meaning is the foundation to all life.

So, in terms of the internal value to the practice of learning why we are here, we can say grappling with these biologically and environmentally bestowed drives is a goal in which achieving some headway, brings us happy flourishing.

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Moral Luck & Folk Psychological Concepts

The evolution of our material capabilities created values, the ability for things to matter to us. 

Everyone has different views as to what percentage of study in the hard sciences vs. soft sciences is the most productive balance for gaining new insights into human behaviour short term and long term. I lean heavily towards if we want to come to a fruitful understanding of what matters to us, our perspectives as agents in the world, we need to look to social science and the very complicated holistic social framework we build up through perceiving what others are thinking and modifying our actions accordingly. 

That’s not to say study into ways to alleviate mental conditions like arachnophobia can’t be improved by learning about how natural selection affected our genes. Simply that the character traits that provide us the most meaning in our interconnected world, is not whether someone has a personality trait that can be connected back to their lower primate ancestors, but how that person seeks to deal with the capabilities they’re dealt. 

For example, if a person were to win the lottery tomorrow, the character traits they had forged throughout their life would be being put to the test on a massive ethical quandary in such a way that the main character traits that person would be known for is at this social level of description of do they have the ware with all to navigate that road well.

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What Constitutes Right And Wrong?

Because human beings are complex, their flourishing takes complex forms: we can flourish intellectually – hence, the “intellectual virtues” (both practical and theoretical); we can flourish as builders and makers and artists – hence, the “virtues of craft” – and we can flourish in terms of our non-technical, social and civic activities – hence, the “moral” virtues. [1]

Now, if you’re a consequentialist, you can simply relate to this philosophy as through pursuing your own happy flourishing, either the goals are related to other people or it’s more easily achieved by helping others, so we have an obligation to be altruistic and achieve a global calculus of happy flourishing.

But, I would simply appeal to what is good for any one person being more complicated than an external calculation of ends:

Virtues and therefore morality can only make sense in the context of a practice: they require a shared end, shared rules, and shared standards of evaluation. The virtues also define the relationships among those who share a practice: “….the virtues are those goods by reference to which, whether we like it or not, we define our relationships to those other people with whom we share the kind of purposes and standards which inform practices” (After Virtue 191). We must have the virtues if we are to have healthy practices and healthy communities. [2]

So, if how a person was raised to understand virtue is primarily respecting the shared rule that the dignity of a person must not be violated then, in so far as practicing that virtue is meaningful to that person, it will bring that person happy flourishing.

It goes beyond the contractarian view in its starting point, a basic wonder at living beings, and a wish for their flourishing and for a world in which creatures of many types flourish. It goes beyond the intuitive starting point of utilitarianism because it takes an interest not just in pleasure and pain [and interests], but in complex forms of life. It wants to see each thing flourish as the sort of thing it is. . .[and] that the dignity of living organisms not be violated. [3]

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Scaffolding

There are many guide sticks we can use, like narratives of character virtue exemplars who each are near perfect exhibitions of what it means to hold character virtues like wisdom, courage or compassion.

One way I predict this philosophy will be best assimilated by the most amount of people is in scaffolding up one’s ethical biases from the individual, to the community to internationally. So acknowledging how each social layer will ask of the individual a different role.[4]

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The Individual

So, starting with conceptualising the individual in near solitude, living very rurally, we can say that by the way this person has chosen to live and so in turn how they would like to interact with other people is with a respect for the fact that what matters to this person is a bias for consequential ends like negative liberties (the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints) before any shared principle or means of acting.

Now scaling that up to every individual in the world, we can acknowledge we all have a bit of that person in us, and so depending on what age a person lives through, for example how much peace there is in the world, we can say increasing negative liberties like not having to be conscripted into war is an ethical good to work towards as a society. Similarly almost universally good actions throughout time like the negative liberty to happen to be gay and want to kiss your boyfriend in public or Emma Goldman’s sentiment ‘it’s not my revolution unless I can fail at dancing to it’s rhythm’. [5][6]

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The Community

Next we can think of the ethical practices of a community and how an individuals negative liberty puts a healthy limit on what kind of communitarian principles we develop. For example, we can imagine the principle that what it means to be a good member of the community is working till we drop to maximize the wellbeing of future generations. This neither works in practice because of people’s need to balance work with leisure in order to have a healthy head space to create and do great work, nor in theory, because people desire to hold onto their negative liberties. 

So we may not have Kantian obligations which are truths of reason, but for certain there is the intuitional: [7]

I very much like WD Ross’s theory of prima facie duties. Where any felt obligation is a prima facie duty, however it can be overridden depending on the circumstances by another one, however that does not mean that the original obligation disappears, it simply means that its defeasible and it usually continues to operate in the background.

So if I have an obligation to meet you for lunch and on the way to driving to meet you I go pass a car accident and I have to decide whether to save the person inside or meet you for lunch, I’m going to say that the duty to save the person in the car is overriding, but I’m still going to try to make it up to you, I’m going to apologize, I may buy you the lunch next time as a way of making it up to you which shows that the initial obligation still operates in the background even though it was overridden.

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One’s Position Internationally

Finally, when conceptualizing one’s place in a larger social fabric than the responsibilities you desire to take on in the communities you’re apart of, we can think to our place internationally and in time. Here I think when encouraging people to respect your individual liberties and communitarian principles fails, we can again be biased towards end goals in our ethics and be Machiavellian in service to the individual and community where the risk of doing nothing would lead to greater harm. 

So at it’s most severe, needing to fight a war to defeat fascism where civilians will get caught in the crossfire, or at it’s least severe, we can think of ‘the culture war’, where you feel you’ve put in your two cents of duty with your friends and nothings changing, so you play the jester in order to encourage them to accept you for who you are or not to accept you at all, all in an effort to create deeper connections which builds stronger communities: [8]

It can be annoying or hurtful when others presume they know everything about you. But rather than assert their wrongness and make them defensive, you can acknowledge it as a common human failing and find creative ways to hold a mirror up to what life experiences they’ve had that lead them to jump to those conclusions.

One way is a kind of playful authenticity, telling a lie about a lie, to get back closer to the truth. So don’t outright challenge the idea, but don’t live up to it either, in fact live down to it. Playfully undermine the idea by failing to live up to the glamour of what it would mean to be that person, then find a way of revealing that it was a misunderstanding all along, so they needn’t worry about it applying to you.

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Socialist Entailments

Due to the unfair distribution of power in society in the hands of very few, the good any one person can strive to achieve is immense, because one can imagine wielding the kind of power those at the top currently have to do good. But this power is unattainable to many.

So, like how a figure like Bernie Sanders could have harnessed the position of presidency to do lots of good, how he did educate the masses on the positives of socialised government institutions and, if he’d gotten into power, mobilise a grassroots movement to demonstrate and strike to push through bills.

But, most importantly power can be a mirage. It’s the carrot dangled in front just beyond our reach. We need to create opportunities for ourselves, to achieve great acts of good on our own, like the personal heroism of people flying to Syria to fight Islamic Fascism or organising edible gardens in low-income neighbourhoods.

As well, even though we may cherish those opportunities to do great deeds today, counter-intuitively, the goal should be to move to a world where grand feats of good deeds aren’t necessary or possible. So that more people get a chance to strive to do good.

So a move to devolve government power to a multi-party system through preferential voting, to… Some local government positions being elected by sortition, to… The majority of society being so content with worker-co-ops and syndicalist unions that we transition from representative democracy to direct democracy. So, a chamber of ministers to federated spokes councils.

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Legal Animal Rights Entailments

If the wonder that we experience in viewing wild animals is not ‘how similar to us they are’, but their ‘real opportunities to do and be what they have reason to value’ and one sufficient reason we grant this freedom at least to a basic extent to other people is we have a desire to achieve what we find valuable then; the fact non-human animals experience this desire too means we ought extend these freedoms to non-human animals.

So, a holistic world-view of not wanting to reduce both the quality and quantity of positive experiences humans can have with animals, as well as animals with other animals for low-order pleasures such as taste/texture.

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In Summary

Any really good end goal we can achieve, would be good in virtue of it being a a practice that’s replicable on a mass scale, easily understood through shared rules & ends, and gives meaning and pleasure to the individual for the practices internal value.  

Therefore, what’s most important is devolving power to a larger body of people to be able to create these practices and set an example for others.

Though the governance model needs to be built up slowly enough to match expertise, so as not to falter with people pushing for ideals before having adequately put them to the test. As well, so as not to cause a whiplash effect, where people desire a reactionary politics of conformity, under more rigid hierarchy of just the few:

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Final Thoughts

Here’s a rough diagram for how I relate to various ethical schools of thought:

And here are some of the ideas it attempts to show:

Why some red bars can reach higher than some green bars: People can identify with conservativism as a virtue philosophy and happen to be a virtue exemplar for devolving power to those without it. Like Malcolm X denouncing drug taking, to keep minority communities strong, in response to the flooding of the streets with drugs by the CIA to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Though I would still say co-operation as a virtue provides a more stable foundation for building up institutions with social virtue.

Why some green bars can reach lower than some red bars: Someone can hold the same ideals of co-operative virtue ethics, but through a mistaken practice of over zealously trying to force through their perspective can fail to achieve their goals and fail to win over others to the merits of their ideas, resulting in a painful stultifying.

Why the shorter bars on the graph: Through a careful consideration of required means and desired outcomes, we can find happy flourishing in a character trait that biases one side of the equation over the other (being more means or outcome oriented). So long as we are aware that we’re simply fulfilling something meaningful to us and that it won’t be a character trait that a majority in society can or need replicate. But it must be done with the knowledge that we’re not directly hampering others pursuit of happy flourishing either.

Why the sum of all the green bars add up to an equilateral triangle: The highest amount of happy flourishing we can consistently achieve in society will be a practice that’s replicable and highly aware of the existential grounding that informs which direction a society desires to move in. So, a practice that doesn’t attempt to factor in peoples desire to autonomously search for their own egoist goals and absurdist means would be a practice that is not as easily replicable and so would not produce the highest amount of happy flourishing in society (a smaller equilateral triangle that doesn’t rise as high for not being as wide).

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References

1. Course Notes – G.E.M Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy”

2. MacIntyre: Political Philosophy | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

3. Beyond Compassion and Humanity; Justice for Non-human Animals by Martha Nussbaum

4. Fairly similar to this would be threshold deontology, explained further here: Normative Ethics: Rights, Consequentialism, Deontology. My virtue ethical system would bias consequential actions when consequences are the least severe, then turn into a bias for deontology at a certain threshold, then back to consequentialism at another threshold, so I assume it’d look fairly similar to the graph Avi made but more of a zig zag.

5. To be incredibly pedantic, absurd hypotheticals are always lurking in the background to warn against universals like what if kissing your boyfriend in public started world war 3 before the left was ready and ended with a 1000 year Reich, would it still be justified then? But bar fringe absurdly unlikely hypotheticals. 

6. I know the more well known slogan is “if I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution”, though Emma never said it, it’s a sentiment attributed to a longer text she wrote, which I plan to write a post on next. As well as how “failing to dance to it” is more accurate and how compassionate comedy for our own failings is something we need to rekindle on the left and spread internationally.

7. Daniel Kaufman On Intuitionism and Folk Psychology

8. A Love Letter To Failing Upward

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Further Reading

Egoist

The Politics of Postanarchism by Saul Newman (Preview) (Buy) (Download)

However, can we assume that the possibilities of human freedom lie rooted in the natural order, as a secret waiting to be discovered, as a flower waiting to blossom, to use Bookchin’s metaphor? Can we assume that there is a rational unfolding of possibilities, driven by a certain historical and social logic? This would seem to fall into the trap of essentialism, whereby there is a rational essence or being at the foundation of society whose truth we must perceive. There is an implicit positivism here, in which political and social phenomena are seen as conditioned by natural principles and scientifically observable conditions. Here I think one should reject this view of a social order founded on deep rational principles. In the words of Stirner, ‘The essence of the world, so attractive and splendid, is for him who looks to the bottom of it – emptiness.’ In other words, rather than there being a rational objectivity at the foundation of society, an immanent wholeness embodying the potential for human freedom, there is a certain void or emptiness, one that produces radical contingency and indeterminacy rather than scientific objectivity. This idea has been elaborated by Laclau and Mouffe, who eschew the idea of society as a rationally intelligible totality, and instead see it as a field of antagonisms which function as its discursive limit. In other words, what gives society its definitional limit at the same time subverts it as a coherent, whole identity. Therefore, they argue, ‘Society never manages fully to be society, because everything in it is penetrated by its limits, which prevent it from constituting itself as an objective reality.’ Antagonism should not be thought of here in the sense of the Hobbesian state of nature, as a war of everyman against everyman, but rather as a kind of rupturing or displacement of social identities that prevents the closure of society as a coherent identity.

Science, Perception, and Reality by Wilfrid Sellars (Preview) (Buy) (Download)

It’s Just a Feeling: The Philosophy of Desirism by Joel Marks (Buy) (Download)

Demoralizing Moralism the Futility of Fetishized Values by Jason McQuinn (Download)

Moral Relativism

Melville J. Herskovits and the Racial Politics of Knowledge (Critical Studies in the History of Anthropology) by Jerry Gershenhorn (Buy) (Download)

Is a prescriptive position adopted initially by many anthropologists reacting against the ethnocentrism characteristic of the colonial era.  Melvelle Herskovits, for instance, affirms that “… in practice, the philosophy of relativism is a philosophy of tolerance” (Cultural Relativism, p. 31).

Preference Consequentialism

Commonsense Consequentialism: Wherein Morality Meets Rationality by Douglas W. Portmore (Buy) (Download)

Nonzero: History, Evolution & Human Cooperation: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright (Buy) (Download)

Hedonistic Utilitarianism

Utiltarianism by John Stuart Mill (Buy) (Download)

Co-operative Virtue Ethics

Anarchism and Moral Philosophy by Benjamin Franks (Essay) (Buy) (Download)

Freedom and Democracy in an Imperial Context: Dialogues with James Tully by Robert Nichols and Jakeet Singh (Thesis) (Buy) (Download)

Stoic virtue ethics by Matthew Sharpe (Essay)

Consequentialism and Deontology in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right by Dean Moyar (Essay)

Feral Children and Clever Animals; Reflections on Human Nature (Download)

Our common way of thinking about the difference between physical and behavioral science, described in Chapter 3, is that the goal of the first is to eliminate variance, while the second accepts variance as the essential characteristic of the subject worthy of study. The physical sciences seek to eliminate variation because variation confounds accuracy of prediction. The behavioral sciences should accept variation as the essential aspect of living beings, and thereby strive to measure variance as a technique of describing the nature of life itself. We often confuse the legitimacy of these different goals, thereby leading us to the conclusion, for example, that the physical sciences are more “scientific” than the behavioral because they strive for accuracy and prediction. Some appear to think that a measure of the applicability of science is accuracy of prediction, but variance, too, is a legitimate interest of the scientific method. Science is a unique method, a method independent of what it studies. Measures of variance can be just as reliable as formulas that strive to eliminate or reduce variance. As always, the meaningful issue is what one wants to know, what one wants to accomplish through the application of the methods of science.

Let us put to rest the notion that there can be no science of living beings or that scientific procedures somehow diminish and degrade the awesomeness of life. The chief characteristic of life forms, as opposed to physical objects, is variation. It is variation that permits evolution, for without variation, there is nothing for natural selection to select. The study of variation may be done in two ways: by study of the unique or by study of the general. In this book, we have examined examples of both, although study of the unique case dominates, to be sure; but what Thorndike, Haggerty, and Hamilton contributed is the importance of general variation. Both ways must be investigated because we cannot know what is unique without knowing what is general. Behavioral science, therefore, proceeds on two fronts: the study of the unusual and the study of the variation characteristic of groups.

Conservative Virtue Ethics

After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory by Alasdair MacIntyre (Review) (Download)

Intuitionist Deontology

Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle & W. D. Ross (Buy) (Download)

Daniel Kaufman On Intuitionism and Folk Psychology (Video)

Of the Standard of Taste by David Hume (1909) (Essay)

Absolutist Deontology

The Sources of Normativity by Christine M. Korsgaard (Chapter) (Buy) (Download)

Absurdism

Anti-Oedipus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (Buy) (Download)

Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007 by Nick Land (Buy) (Download)

Tiqqun 1: Conscious Organ of The Imaginary Party by Tiqqun (Buy) (Download)

Liberation Theology

The Selfless Mind; Personality, Consciousness and Nirvana in Early Buddhism by Peter Harvey (Buy) (Download) (Review)

Response Video to ‘Veganism vs. Animal Liberation’

Full Transcript:

Alright, this is going to be a response to Eisel’s video on ‘Veganism vs. Animal Liberation’ with a critique at the end about common arguments he uses in his videos.

So, as far as I know Eisel has never tried to come up with precise wording for what his preferred definition of veganism would be, so at a guess from watching his videos, I can imagine it would be something along the lines of:

“A personal duty to respect the dignity of animals & a desire to build a social movement to, among other things, lobby government for a higher percentage territory of managed wildlife habitat.”

And we can guess his argument for this philosophy being contained in the word vegan is that… its the best descriptive adjective for a human-centred movement. And, that the goal is to win over enough passionate people who are dedicated enough to take on the personal principle of avoiding animal products, as a basis for finding each other and organizing to making changes to our communities and institutions.

The person he’s critiquing would like to abandon the word vegan in favour of advocating the ideology of anti-speciesism, as an element of total liberation. So more like a social justice movement where anti-speciesism is one axis of oppression among other struggles like anti-racism & anti-sexism. Therefore an animal-centred movement alongside other oppressed-centred movements.

So, positives to Eisel’s critique are, by solely advocating for animals through a social justice approach, you just are going to get meat eaters being turned away from caring about animals because vegans look like deluded people who view animals as citizens.

As well as vegans feeling more justified in taking violent action for animals, who they start to view as members of our society. When in reality, like I said in my earlier video, animals can’t conceptualize a tactical war to achieve rights, so they can’t desire it.

We aren’t even able to alleviate their suffering like we could human prisoners with the optimistic notion that direct actions done in other places now, may one day lead to an end to their suffering.

Negatives are, he never acknowledges any better arguments for putting more focus on words like animal liberation.

I think we need to be fighting for incremental legal animal rights laws which make it less profitable to breed animals for food. And one philosophical and legal approach which is gaining more prominence is Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach, which we can say is about liberating animals to be able to express their capabilities in the wild. Links below in the description.

As well, I think he’s wrong to claim Animal Liberation is primarily tied to Singer’s views on utilitarianism. The most common association people will draw it to is the Animal Liberation Front, which people already understand that if you have activists willing to liberate animals from cages, they obviously won’t also be buying animal foods.

I have nothing against veganism as a marketable word for a boycott identity, but in terms of explaining where the principle comes from, I think legal animal rights movement, says it really clearly in the name itself about how it’s a political movement, rather than veganism with it’s history and etymology in vegetarianism, which was simply a lifestyle society.

So in conclusion, I think as well as and even better than a vegan identity, we need to start thinking of ourselves as legal animal rights advocates also, which can encompass arguments for animal rights, liberation and/or welfare.

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Part 2

Alright this is the point in the video where I’m going to go into critiquing Eisel’s most commonly used arguments, if you never feel tempted to watch an Eisel video and couldn’t care less the effect he and people like him have, that’s okay, you can just click off the video now.

So, I watched Eisel’s videos for a long time because he talked about a lot of topics I care about like a rewilding habitat approach to advocating for veganism, nihilism and encouraging a pragmatic, social science approach to many questions.

But, even though I was grateful to be introduced to lots of little conflicts between different world-views that I wasn’t previously aware of, I felt his views on issues were somewhat simplistic.

Firstly, let’s talk about his habit of arguing against the worst arguments for a world-view in order to appear superior.

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2a. Arguing against straw-men

So, Eisel likes to make the argument that you can draw an association between the top academics making arguments for a particular issue and the ineloquent layman who got their talking points from twitter, then dismiss both their reasoning as equally baseless.

[Video Clip – Veganism vs. Anti-Capitalism (vs. The Vegan Anarchist] [3]

Many of the problems we have within the intellectual ghetto of 21st century vegan politics are basically the same as the problems you have with the rest of planet earth or western academia or what have you.

And doubtless this is true in many cases, but often he never proves conclusively the association and in my view simply enjoys teeing off against bad arguments which make him look good.

So to demonstrate, imagine two rooms of people, where in both rooms one person is advocating veganism and the other is raising concerns about how it may create problems for preserving and increasing the number of people who can speak indigenous languages and play an active role in the culture.

In the first room of laymen twitter users, we’re asked to imagine that the person raising concerns about veganism’s impact on indigenous culture would view the threat as being so detrimental, that they would rather stick rigidly to one conception of what indigenous culture entails and not accept any idea of the culture evolving over time.

So, the meat eater asks the vegan; “do you see nothing positive in these indigenous cultures? Do you see nothing worth saving in native tradition?” And so, having laid the premise of someone putting forth a bad argument that we the listener would also be frustrated to have to answer, Eisel can jump in to save the day and answer with an apparent sense of superiority:

[Video Clip – Answering “White Privilege” (VS. Joey Carbstrong!)] [4]

My answer to that is two-fold, one, when you think of culture, do you of it as a weakness or a strength? I’m dead serious, really think about it, is your culture holding you back? Is it dead weight? Is it a burden you’re going to place on the shoulders of the next generation?

Cool, so for Eisel that’s video over, that’s the advice to remember to take away with you. But how would this actually go over, if you were in a room with a well read, articulate person offering reasonable concerns about the impact of veganism on indigenous people. Well we can imagine the meat eater asking “What about indigenous people on the bones of their asses, hunting as a cheap way of acquiring food and having a culture of sharing with elders in their community who can’t do it themselves, do you see nothing about that worth preserving? And now Eisel’s answer;

[Video Clip – Answering “White Privilege” (VS. Joey Carbstrong!)] [4]

When you think of culture, do you of it as a weakness or a strength?

Clearly this is inadequate, and everything about taking those actions in that circumstance and that culture is commendable. Did it sound like that argument could be put into practice just as easily on a more nuanced critique of veganism and it be just as easily refuted, as Eisel would have you believe?:

[Video Clip – Veganism vs. Anti-Capitalism (vs. The Vegan Anarchist] [5]

Every so often, London School of Economics has people with PhDs, who are on the far-left, making these same sorts of arguments, and they’re just as easily refuted.

So, the correct answer for me there is to say, of course I wouldn’t condemn them for killing animals in that hyper specific circumstance, and I would campaign for free & better education, community gardening projects, etc. To improve their lot in life. But, if you’re living in the city and your only access to hunting grounds is driving an hour out your way, then a healthier and more ethical use of your money would simply be picking up tofu from the supermarket instead of meat.

As a side note, this is also where I view my definition of veganism as an animal products boycott behaviour as having advantages over other ones like the vegan society which defines veganism as a philosophy:

Firstly, because when simply explained as a behaviour, it’s less easily misunderstood as a belief-ism one needs to buy into which could negatively change everything about how one currently views the word. And rather can be related to as a tool for achieving goals one has through ones own philosophy and culture already. Like the Mi’kmaq legend of how a demi-god used magic to obtain unlimited amounts of beaver meat from a single bone, reflecting a wish for abundance disconnected from the need to hunt.

Secondly, The strong commitment is clear through it being a boycott protest, which we can really easy conceptually tie to other boycotts, where someone boycotting South African products during apartheid wouldn’t feel comfortable flying over their and joining the police force themselves. More so than in other definitions where you’re just saying you’re abstaining from using the end animal products.

And finally, I am actually fine with my definition being softer on for example subsistence hunters. I’ve got a video on my channel of Penan tribes people in Indonesia explaining how it would be repulsive to them to keep animals in captivity to farm, and I think this is great animal rights advocacy, so again a positive distinction.

2b. Faulty comparisons

So, a faulty comparison is when you compare one thing to another that is really not related, in order to make one thing look more or less desirable than it really is.

For example, the comparison; broccoli has significantly less fat than the leading candy bar!

While both broccoli and candy bars can be considered snacks, comparing the two in terms of fat content and ignoring the significant difference in taste, leads to the faulty comparison.

Now in Eisel’s case, here’s an example from his video called Against Anarchism:

[Video Clip – Against Anarchism (In Principle and in Practice, esp. “Left Anarchism”)] [4]

So someone could challenge me, I’m steal-manning Theo’s position here to say well look even if you don’t subscribe to this long term more utopian idea of where this is going to, and even if you don’t agree with this in principle, in this sense, can’t you see some short-term benefit in anarchism here and now, in the same way that I can see a benefit in charity. . .

And if I argued back pointing out the relative historical triviality of libertarianism, look this isn’t really a major influential political philosophy, but if on a scale of one to ten, if we rate libertarianism like a three out of ten, then left-wing anarchism is a zero, it has no significance at all.

Now, the obvious mistake he made here is the pragmatic goals of right or left-wing anarchists would simply be to win people over to transitionery policy steps through left or right-wing libertarianism. So the logical comparison to make would be comparing support between right wing anarchism and left wing anarchism, or right wing libertarianism against left wing libertarianism. Not comparing the more public friendly image of right wing libertarians against the more radical side from the left wing anarchists.

Next, an example from his video on China’s policies in Xinjiang towards the Uiyghur Muslims:

(Video Clip – China is Right About Xinjiang. By Eisel) [5]

Is it fair to say that this is cultural genocide? My answer to that question is yes, this is cultural genocide, but we should say in the same breath without any hypocrisy that what the government of the United States of America attempted to do in Afghanistan also was cultural genocide.

So even if we examine the cultural project that the United States embarked on and compare it to the cultural project that the government of China is embarked on, we have to say the body count for what China is doing and how it is doing it is much much lower, the negative impacts are much more limited.

Now, in reality the cultural heritage that was attempted to be destroyed in Afghanistan, if we can even call it genocide really was only aimed at disarming the movement of rural Pashtun’s who chose to take up arms only 10 years earlier, naive though that aim was. Rules of engagement listed mosques as protected buildings and a conservative Islamic government was put in place.

China on the other hand is locking up millions, bulldozing it’s towns and mosques, subsidizing settlers to move in on mass and take coordinator positions. All in an effort to brainwash the people into thinking of themselves as more like Han Chinese who should praise the state for their glorious history. So the level of cultural destruction is played up in the Afghan case to appear more equal and suffering as a result is played down in the Chinese case to appear better.

And finally a video he did on civil disobedience:

(Video Clip – Civil Disobedience is the Opposite of Democracy. By Eisel) [6]

Do you think Israel should be ruled by the sober judgment of a hundred percent of the population participating in a democracy where they have to stand up and make rational arguments where they believe in and consider the law of the Constitution and people get to vote and all this stuff [In short…] do you think it should be a procedural rational democracy involving everyone OR do you think that a small minority of religious fanatics should just be able to go and engage in civil disobedience?

. . . Civil disobedience is; rule of your society by the most militant minority.

So, this is both a bad comparison and a faulty dilemma, there are obvious degrees of punishment a government can bring down on people breaking the law, any direction the society goes in for either not controlling or bowing to protesters demands is still the moral culpability of the government and those who participated in the party political process. There is an obvious legal and moral difference between victimless civil disobedience aimed at all people being treated equally in society like collecting salt from the sea or staying seated on the bus, to that of stealing another country’s resources against international law.

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2c. Jumping to conclusions

So, in the video I’m responding to he claims Singer has said he himself eats meat:

[Sanity vs. Insanity: Veganism vs. Animal Liberation] [7]

Peter Singer very casually talks about eating meat in his own life when he’s in a particular situation at a restaurant other people order meat and he’ll eat meat too for no reason

But try as I might googling, I can’t find any quote anywhere to back up his claim, so more than likely this is just part of a long running pattern of Eisel jumping to conclusions that fit his narrative.

The reality is not much better, but the fact is Singer acts vegan when at home and vegetarian when travelling and there are no vegan options in the restaurant he wants to visit.

When I’m shopping for myself, it will be vegan. But when I’m travelling and it’s hard to get vegan food in some places or whatever, I’ll be vegetarian. I won’t eat eggs if they’re not free-range, but if they’re free-range, I will. I won’t order a dish that is full of cheese, but I won’t worry about, say, whether an Indian vegetable curry was cooked with ghee.

Singer’s book ‘Animal Liberation’ promoted a preference consequentialist view which makes veganism an obligation, it was only later he started to slide towards hedonistic utilitarianism.

I also found a particularly hilarious example of Eisel not watching the video he’s responding to to the end and making a response video critiquing the guy for burning a poster of Mao Zedong, which he in fact doesn’t do and Serpentza gives the same reasons for not doing it that Eisel is supposedly critiquing him for doing.

So, Serpentza makes a video saying how he couldn’t understand at first why Chinese people don’t reject putting up posters of Mao Zedong in the same way German people reject putting up posters of Hitler today, but he learnt to sympathise with the fact it’s part of the culture to see him simply as a symbol who kept the country strong and independent.

Eisel’s response; ‘why would you burn a poster of Mao Zedong, you don’t have any sympathy for the Chinese people or their culture, you ignorant, unresearched, lazy fuck.’ Hahaha

(Chairman Mao – Why do people worship this MURDERER? By Serpentza) [8]

04:40 – [The communist party are] very good at engineering what people think from a very young age through education and through various different social programs. People still believe that if it wasn’t for him, China wouldn’t be the way it is, people still believe that he’s a great man who maybe made a few small mistakes and if you want to call a few small mistakes murdering millions of people, so be it.

11:10 – So at the end of the day, am I going to burn this portrait of Mao Zedong? No I’m not going to burn it and you all know why because I respect my Chinese friends, I respect my Chinese family and I respect Chinese people and their opinions, at least to a certain degree. And while I do not agree with everything that this man stands for – and why honestly if I could have met him in real life, just like most people say about you know taking out Hitler, if they met him in real life that’s something I would have done – at the end of the day though because I do respect my Chinese friends, family and Chinese people, I will not burn this because it’s distasteful, because it shows a massive lack of respect towards the Chinese people.

(Against Serpentza, re: Chairman Mao’s Portrait on the Wall. By Eisel) [9]

03:25 – So he had a video recently in which he featured himself burning a portrait of Mao Zedong. I guess I’ll give the link below this video and currently that video has over 200,000 views, so I certainly can’t hope to challenge that by reaching an audience of equal size and you know he’s reaching that audience because he’s telling people something they already want to hear. . .

04:55 – I am not in a position to say to people who put his poster on the wall this is all that Mao Zedong represents this is the only thing it represents and this is what it must mean to you. . .

I think it comes down to a trend of Eisel’s to jump to conclusions about a persons position so that he can believe he has superior positions to the person and mock them. It’s part of a conspiracy mindset. Like believing with confidence the assassination of both Kennedy brothers was done by the CIA and that people like Abby Martin are government agents for Russia.

I’ll link to another funny example where he did this to me in the description box down below.

But yeah, that’s the end of the video, all the best, peace.

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References

1. Beyond Compassion and Humanity; Justice for Non-human Animals by Martha Nussbaum – https://activistjourneys.wordpress.com/2020/07/25/beyond-compassion-and-humanity-justice-for-non-human-animals-martha-c-nussbaum/

2. The Capability Approach – https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/capability-approach/

3. Veganism vs. Anti-Capitalism (vs. The Vegan Anarchist) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFqvoTLd5_k

4. Against Anarchism (In Principle and in Practice, esp. “Left Anarchism” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaTvML9ATaY

5. China is Right About Xinjiang – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqgPw5Z-Guw

6. Civil Disobedience is the Opposite of Democracy. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gs9HO4BjwrY

7. Sanity vs. Insanity: Veganism vs. Animal Liberation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXghrCRoz5s

8. Chairman Mao – Why do people worship this MURDERER? By Serpentza – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_ZCf1dZv6g

9. Against Serpentza, re: Chairman Mao’s Portrait on the Wall – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_AFVx0SOZk

10. Eisel’s use of faulty comparisons to oversimplify problems. – https://philosophicalvegan.com/viewtopic.php?p=48462